What Happens to My Pet in a Divorce?

For many people, their relationship with their pet can be comparable to that of a human child. It is often the case that a family dog or cat is essentially a member of the family. When a couple decides to get divorced, what is the law governing “custody” over a beloved pet may? This article discusses California laws impacting what happens to a pet in the event of divorce.

Current California Law on Pet Custody

Under current California family law, pets are considered personal property in the context of a divorce. As a result, principles of community apply. In general, all property acquired during marriage is considered to be community property of the spouses. In the event of a divorce, all community property is divided equally between spouses.

Thus, if a pet was purchased, adopted, or otherwise born to a married couple, both spouses have equal ownership rights to the pet. However, this does not imply that a pet is subject to a Solomon-like physical division. If one spouse is awarded sole ownership of a pet, the other spouse is entitled to ownership of property with similar value to offset such ownership. Spouses are encouraged to find an amicable answer to who gets a family pet.

Pet Custody Under Recently Enacted California Law

Effective January 2019, a new law passed that provides additional guidance as to how pet ownership is determined. Under the new law, pets are still treated as community property. However, if the spouses cannot agree on who gets “custody” of a family pet, the new law grants courts the authority to consider several factors based on the best interests of the spouses and their pets.

Factors that a court will consider to determine ownership of a family pet include:

  • Who adopted the pet;
  • Who purchased the pet’s food and toys;
  • Who normally fed the pet;
  • Who typically walked the pet (if applicable);
  • Who provided health care for the pet;
  • Who sheltered the pet;
  • Who spent the most time with the pet; and
  • Allegations of domestic abuse or pet abuse.

Get Quality Legal Advice from the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff

It’s not unusual for divorce proceedings to become heated and emotional contests between spouses. In such situations, “sticking it” to the other spouse can unfortunately take priority over finding an amicable solution to issues such as property division. That’s why you need an experienced divorce attorney from the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff to provide sound and grounded legal advice. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff, you can benefit from the sophisticated knowledge and experience of Attorney Graff when it comes to protecting you and your family’s interests in a divorce.

For a free initial consultation with Attorney Graff, call our office at (805) 633-4999 today.

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